One of the most exciting times in a child’s school life is when they choose which instrument they want to play. After the type of instrument, brand, and model is chosen, the next most important set of items to purchase are accessories. If parents only choose to purchase or rent an instrument without accessories, the chances of their child quitting increases several-fold since they will be ill-equipped to improve in a timely fashion.
Here are some “must have” rental accessories that parents should outfit their beginner music student with:
A music stand is a necessity, and is very affordable. The music stand should be sturdy and able to accommodate music and some other light supplies. Without a music stand, students’ posture will be adversely affected, making it difficult to improve on their instrument.
A metronome is a device used by musicians that marks time at a selected rate by giving a regular tick. Metronome practice is arguably the most effective way to improve one’s skills, and will help a child improve their rhythmic and technical skills in the fastest and most efficient way possible. The metronome can be digital or “clockwork”, and does not need to be that expensive at first. Some metronomes come with many bells and whistles, including the ability to subdivide (or break large beats up into very small clicks), but a beginner will do fine with a simple, steady click at first.
This is not normally high on the list of must-have accessories, but I believe an instrument stand is a huge motivational practice tool. An instrument stand allows students to leave the instrument assembled and ready to play outside of the case. Interestingly enough, one of the hardest things for young students to do is motivate enough to take the instrument out of the case and assemble it — when it is out already on a stand, the chance of a child picking it up and beginning to play greatly increases. Instrument stands are inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold.
Instrument Cleaning Kit
Without regular proper maintenance, instruments will stop working well and students will become frustrated and possibly quit. An instrument in disrepair is arguably the number one reason students choose to discontinue playing into their second year. Some manufacturers will include a cleaning kit with a new instrument. Cleaning rods, snakes, swabs, cloths, and oils are essential for proper instrument maintenance. Parents should make sure they investigate which cleaning supplies are appropriate for the instrument their child chooses, and purchase these items right away.
Many instruments (not all) utilize consumable items that students will need on hand. For instance: clarinets, sax, oboe and bassoon students should purchase extra reeds; string players should purchase an extra set of strings; woodwind and brass students may want to go the extra mile and purchase fancy reed holders or mouthpiece pouches. These items are important, since a broken reed should not mean a few days off practicing because there is no replacement reed in the home.
One of the fun parts of being a musician is the plethora of neat accessories available to make your instrumental study “your own”. There are great cases and “gig bags” with backpack straps that you can purchase for your instrument; neat devices to help with your bow hold; breathing and devices for wind players, and practice pads and sticks/mallets for percussionists, to name a few. Having great accessories makes practicing and being a musician more fun, so don’t be reluctant to invest in them for your child.
While this is the basic (and necessary) list of accessories to purchase, students will have a lot of fun choosing more accessories to fit their individual needs as they get more serious about playing. In order for a beginner music student to achieve real progress, however, they must have the tools listed above at their disposal. Most of the accessories are a one-time purchase, and the rewards of having a student continue playing through their school years and beyond is absolutely priceless.
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Associate Director/Professor of Trombone
John J. Cali School of Music
Montclair State University